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College App

College admission: 5 ways students can make a difference during the pandemic

Cover photo: Students of the Mighty Mask Project.


When applying to competitive colleges, every aspect of your application is carefully scrutinized. We’ve interviewed several admission officers during the pandemic and asked them what they look for in students. All said the same thing: They are looking for students who step up and make a difference (even a small one) in their community. 

This year, students will have an additional optional 250-word essay to expand on their actions during the pandemic, so it is more important than ever to do something productive during the summer, and not just sit at home. 

Coming up with an idea and getting started is the hardest part! To help you in your journey, here are a few ideas to ignite your passion for helping others during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Idea 1: Donate masks to local children’s hospital, nursing homes, or even elderly 

Take it to the next level: Get local media involved. Reach out to local news channels, magazines, and community websites to help spread the word and recruit more volunteers. Start a GoFundMe campaign to be able to purchase more supplies for more masks. Record a tutorial of how your team assembles their masks for other groups wanting to follow in your footsteps.

Spinoff idea: Not interested in masks? How about cards to brighten up the day for Covid-19 patients. Let them know they are not in this alone.  

College admissions tip: If you get on the local news or in print, include this in your college application in the activities list, and send them the article or news clip in a separate email to add to your admissions file.

Idea 2: Start a food drive in your neighborhood

Step one: Find a local food bank and ask them what type of food they need

Step two: Create fliers detailing when you’ll be picking up the supplies/where to drop off the supplies, and which supplies are needed. Drop the fliers in your neighbor’s mailbox, ask local businesses if they can post the fliers, and post to social media.

Step three: Keep track of how much supplies are donated and collected.

Idea 3: Start a tutoring service for local children

Step one: Decide which subjects you could teach

Step two: Create a free website on Wix/WordPress that advertises your services

Step three: Publicize your tutoring service online through social media 

Step four: Offer weekly tutoring sessions where students can drop in and ask their homework questions or have a more structured one-on-one lesson. 

Idea 4: Join a Beta Bowl virtual entrepreneur session. 

If you are the type of person who could benefit by working with a business mentor to get your idea off the ground, then this virtual camp might be for you. 

Step one: Brainstorm with your mentor a business idea that could help people during the Covid-19 outbreak. Create actionable steps to take to get the idea launched. 

Step two: At the end of your sessions, continue to spend time growing your idea each week. A little progress each week will add up to big results.

Step three: Recruit fellow students to help to get the idea off the ground 

Idea 5: Connect with a PenPal at a retirement center

Step one: Coordinate with a local retirement center and discuss the idea with a contact person there 

Step two: “Adopt” one or two seniors as a PenPal. Write letters each week and drop them off. At first, the letters can be a simple message and you can add drawings or paintings as well. As you grow the relationship, you can speak more about your day-to-day lives and interests. 

Step three: Recruit fellow students and write letters each week. 

Take the idea to the next level: Once you are able, volunteer at the retirement center and get to meet your PenPal in-person! 

Get Started Now

No matter what your idea is, the time to get started is now. Make a difference in your community while also build your college application and gain invaluable experiences. 

*Lindsey Conger is a college counselor and tutor at Moon Prep. She helps students create memorable personal statements and applications that stand out from the masses. Lindsey also tutors students in writing, SAT and ACT prep to increase their academic profile to universities.

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